During these Covid times Chef's Warehouse in Cape Town, South Africa has created yet another masterpiece, designed with locals in mind. I like to call it "out of town in town" with their new Spanish Tapas style menu at the location on Bree street. Both the food and beverage menu transport you gastronomically to a restaurant somewhere on a street in Barcelona, Spain. I'll start where my expertise lives... the wine list! Thoughtfully curated by their certified Sommelier, Lennox (@lennox_thewineguy), the list is filled with locally sourced Spanish grape varietals merging South African and Spanish wine cultures. This is brilliant as it gives locals a chance to learn about Spanish wine grapes while supporting the local wine economy. Lennox is well versed in the grape and its history in South Africa! I loved the diverse range from the fruit forward Newton Johnson 2018 Albarino to the cult favorite AA Badenhorst Spookberg Old Vine Palomino.
It was hard for me to decide between strictly tapas or a combo of one tapas and an entree. The style of dining is perfect for couples and groups. (Not really ideal for a dine alone option.) Nonetheless, I ordered the Calamares: Squid, Anchovy, Fried Garlic, Chirizo and Lemon for a starter. I selected the grilled tuna belly as my entree. Overall the food was excellent... very tasty.
The suggested wine pairing was spot on, although I let my ego get the best of me and went rogue instead of following Lennox's lead. I loved the fruit forward taste of the Newton Johnson. It reminded me of a white wine from Santa Ynez valley back home. Lets just say my memory did not pair well with the food. I should have listened to Lennox when he suggested the understated, mild and less acidic Spookberg. That wine proved to be a perfect canvas for the highly flavor filled and layered taste of the Calamares.
I could talk for hours about the wine but I am not because the reason for the famous Chef’s Warehouse was for the food by Chef Liam! (see my wine summary at the end of this blog for my reviews). Chef’s Warehouse has easily been on the list of one of the top three restaurants to dine at while in Cape Town. Before Covid, it was almost impossible to get a reservation. The silver lining is that less tourists means locals are able to explore Cape Town’s world renown restaurants. As I mentioned earlier there were decisions to be made. Personally, I prefer tasting menus when dining alone where all you do is sit, eat, drink and be merry. All the tapas looked delicious and all the entrees definitely big enough for sharing.
The Calamares Tapa I ordered was absolutely perfect. The right combination of savory with slices of chorizo that added a mild spicy kick, anchovies that highlighted the squid by adding a racy saltiness and the fresh squid cooked to a tender perfection. It all came together with the signature layered flavor profile of South African dishes while maintaining the simple vibe of Spanish tapas.
Tip: Ask for bread because you will definitely want to scrape up the sauce!I can not wait to revisit and taste through all the tapas with friends.
I selected the grilled tuna belly as my entree. This dish was much less complex. The tuna belly itself was cooked well with crispy edges and a firm center. Simple seasons: salt, paprika and toasted garlic chips. The natural oil from the fish mixed with the paprika made each bite even more enjoyable. It was served with a parsley and red onion salad. The salad was not my favorite, maybe because I grew up with my grandmother scolding me if ever I tried to eat the parsley garnish on my plate at fancy restaurants. Tip: It's big enough for 2-4 people. If solo take half home it makes for a great protein in any salad.
Newton Johnson - 100% Albarino. Full bodied, fruity, med plus acidity, leafy green granny smith (tart) apple. You know that one with the shiny ski.
Fram - Palomino dominated with Chenin and Honey pot. Medium body, med acidity, under ripe pineapple, apple flesh-no skin.
AA Badenhorst Spookberg - Old Vine Palomino.Understated, Light body, low acidity, very mild fruit flavors, earth, slight nutty, natural flavors with a hint of saltiness on the finish. (It’s like that one friend who doesn't talk much but is super interesting)
Here is a list of my 10 ten things to do while living in Cape Town, South Africa under strict Covid laws.
Restrictions are in place to protect the people living in South Africa until a slow down in Covid cases happens or a vaccine is administered. The government has implemented strict lockdown laws that make it feel more like South Anti-wine than South Africa. A couple worth mentioning and probably the most economically and socially devastating, the 9pm curfew and the ban on all alcohol sales. Social butterflies who travel from restaurant to wineries and everywhere in between eating, drinking and adding to the fragile economy of South Africa wings have been virtually clipped. The logic behind the curfew and the ban is to limit access to alcohol and avoid irresponsible behavior that can result in spreading cases, accidents and violence which ultimately may result in hospitals being overwhelmed with non Covid admissions. It's a tough decision that the government had to make. Right or wrong it feels like South Anti-Wine and the economy is suffering. The economy needs social butterflies spreading their bucks around now more than ever to prevent total devastation.
It is time to be creative and support small businesses, restaurants and out of work hospitality staff during this challenging time. It may even require a Covid friendly field trip out of the house. So many people have been affected, it's like a domino effect. With people barely leaving their houses, all brick and mortar businesses are suffering. Most sommeliers, chefs, even your local club Dj are out of work. Here are list of ways social butterflies can pollinate the local economy.
1. Host a virtual wine tasting sampling South African wines. Great for both locals and people living around the world. This is the safest and most Covid friendly way to connect with friends and family or even get your work colleagues together for a social hour. There are a number of companies to choose from, just type “virtual wine tasting” in your browser. For a guaranteed good time from your favorite bi-continental sommelier visit Zuriwine.com to book a virtual tasting right away!
2. Hire an out of work sommelier to guide you through your private wine collection at home. This is the perfect time to learn about your inventory, host a tasting for a small group of friends (virtually or in-person) or simply organize your home cellar like sommeliers due at restaurants. Sommelier organizations like BLACC based in South Africa is a great resource for finding knowledgeable, well trained sommeliers who need work.
3. Enjoy a restaurant style dinner at home. There are so many options to support your local restaurants. You can order take- away directly from them or hire an out of work chef to prepare a restaurant quality meal at home. One of my favorites is Chef Kiwondo who brings an entire beautifully plated Sushi vibe directly to your home. Another option is to join a virtual dining experience. In Cape Town, Matt Manning’s virtual dining experiences are highly rated. Call your local restaurant and simply ask how can you help?
4. Get out of the house and get moving! Take a paddle lesson. Sup Cape Town has packages that include paddle board rental with an one hour lesson
5. Party at home. Create a club vibe with a local DJ who brings a small set up with wireless noise canceling headsets. Enough headsets for up to 10 people! You and your family or very small group of friends can dance the night away without disturbing the neighbors. I recently danced the night away with DJ Dani B. spinning at a silent at home disco party.
6. Create your own walking foodie tour. Explore Cape Town through local restaurants. Take a long walk from Seapoint to CBD for example stopping to try small bites at different restaurants. You’d be surprised to see what businesses are surviving and the new businesses that have opened since Covid. Perfect opportunity to hear their stories of survival.
7. Check out your local lifestyle market. These are fun places to explore and support local food vendors and unique merchants. I stumbled across Local at Heritage Square. Filled with fresh produce, artisan cheeses and gourmet prepared foods it's half indoor and half outdoor space is a perfect place to feel out of town in town for an afternoon lunch and shopping. You can given treat yourself to a Turkish Delight spritzer at Penny Noir.
8. Work from your local coffee shop. Change your perspective for at least one day a week for a few hours. Use the time to catch up on a project or binge on social media. Work or play, getting out of the house will change your mindset and inspire.
9. Try yoga or any group exercise at home with a small group of friends. Especially nice if you have a large outdoor space. Crystal from Fuc Movement will come to you and host a yoga class. During these stressful times its a great way to connect with your mind, body, soul and few great friends.
10. Non Wine ~Winery Tour. You can stay super local and visit Buitenverwachting in Constantia. Their beautiful lawn is still open for picnics. Visit Kujani in Stellenbosch for breakfast or lunch. Beautiful views and delicious food at most wine farms. Kunjani's deck overlooks a large part of the Stellenbosch Valley. Enjoy wine country without the wine!
I remember the day I learned black people make wine too”
It was 9 years ago, I was teaching a private in home wine class in Ladera Heights, Ca. This beautiful older woman asked if “I had been to the black owned winery, Rideau?” I had not but made it a point to visit the following weekend.
I fell in love with my passion for wine after visiting Rideau Vineyards and seeing Ms. Iris Rideau in action. I visited again for the next several years. Every month bringing with me groups of 50 people at at time.
I made it my mission to find more like Iris. When I found them I made it my mission to showcase these brands. Eight years ago I started a wine festival and hoped at least 35 people would show up so that I could recover my cost for the venue. They did. Seven years later that festival turned into a popular 3 day weekend coined "Wine Over LA" with a sold out train trip to Santa Barbara for wine tasting ,a four course dinner and wine pairing featuring black owned brands and a party on a yacht featuring 16 Black owned wine brands.
Fast forward to Covid-19 and a new norm. The festival will still be three days but virtual featuring 14 brands!!!!! Friday Night "Cooking and Sipping" with Iris Rideau, Saturday, a virtual tour and Tasting with native American winemaker Tara Gomez and on Sunday our annual wine festival with virtual tastings, wine lessons and wine talk with 15 black leaders in the wine industry.
Iris retired and sold Rideau vineyards in 2018. Last time I visited her with a group of friends we sat down to talked about her upcoming book, her contributions to the wine industry and the current state of black people in the wine industry. On that day Iris final words of encouragement to me:
“I’m so proud of what you have accomplished in the wine industry, I’m passing the torch”
The video is on my YouTube Chanel.
Purchase Wine Over LA: Diversity Wine Route
Make the perfect winter themed Sangria. Perfect for entertaining for the holidays. Festive flavors that remind you of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Its a big hit for every occasion. This recipe is easy and only takes minutes!
PRESS RELEASE: First Black Female Vineyard Owner to Headline Zuri Wine Tasting’s Meet the Maker Dinner Party Series
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
First Black Female Vineyard Owner to Headline Zuri Wine Tasting’s Meet the Maker Dinner Party Series
LOS ANGELES, CA (October 28, 2019) – Iris Rideau, the first black female vineyard owner, and former owner of Rideau Vineyards is set to headline Zuri Wine Tasting’s, upcoming Meet the Maker Dinner Party Series at Post and Beam on Saturday, November 23, 2019.
The event will be the third in a four part Meet the Maker series featuring wines made by African Americans, Women and Latinos. Rideau is the first black woman to solely own a wine making facility, vineyard and tasting room. During her days at Rideau, she created a wine brand known for her effortless combination of French Rhone varietals and the savoury taste of Creole cuisine. Rideau undoubtedly had a knack for wine. Under her leadership Rideau made award winning wines, including Best of Show prize from the New Orleans Wine Competition and Best in Show from the Los Angeles International Wine Competition.
Guests will also be treated to a four course New Orleans inspired dinner prepared by Post and Beam’s Head Chef and owner, John Cleveland. The dinner will
be paired with limited edition wines from the library collection at Rideau Vineyards.
Rideau and Zuri Wine Tasting’s, Tuanni Price, guide them through the tasting notes of each wine served.
Commenting on this upcoming event, Price said: “I am excited and feel honoured to be having such a prolific figure in the history of wine at this Meet the Maker Dinner Party Series. I am also excited to bring an upscale event to the community I was raised in. This is an opportunity to learn about wines from an expert, taste some award winning wines, all while enjoying good food, music and people. It will be winemazing!”
This Meet the Maker Dinner Party Series is on track to sell out; therefore, interested persons are encouraged to book their spaces early. Tickets are available for $100 per person for indoor dining and $125 for VIP patio. For further information or to purchase event tickets, visit: https://www.zuriwine.com.
The dinner party will begin at 7:00 pm with a sparkling wine reception featuring Moreno Sparking
Wine, live music from Grammy Award Winning artist Bobby Watson and The Cookies, and a meet
and greet reception with Iris Rideau.
It’s not just about food, wine and entertainment. Post & Beam, the 8-year-old restaurant in the back of
the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw plaza in South Los Angeles is a one of a kind iconic restaurant. It’s about
engaging in history and culture. It’s about bringing unique and upscale experiences to the
community. Guests will also receive expert lessons in wine education as Iris
Media contact: Tuanni Price
Historically I have not been a big fan of Temecula wine country. As of now that has changed.. completely! My most recent visit was a day trip and I completely fell vine over hills in love.
I am now a fan and I love Temecula wine country. Here are the top three reasons why:
Our first stop was Baily Vineyard & Winery, established in 1986 this family owned winery features Bordeaux style wines. The winemaker is Phil Bailey.
I tasted through almost all the wines on the list. My favorite was the 2016 Sangiovese, not a Bordeaux style wine, however a well made light body Italian varietal that had a perfect balance of fruit, spice and mild tannins. To be completely transparent I did not care too much for the white wines, they lacked the acidity that I usually crave in whites. The reds exceeded my expectations! It was difficult for me to single out a second place favorite, the reds were all delicious. Malbec, Cab Franc, and even a Meritage were all well balanced with typical flavor profiles and pleasing. We even tasted a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon who’s vines were planted in 1968. It was filled with the complexity,fruit layers and bit of funk you’d expect in an old vine wine.
The tasting room vibe was relaxed and welcoming. Cindy helped us and I could have not asked for a better hostess with the mostest! Tasting fees $15 for 6,bottle price $20-$65. No reservation required.
Stop #2 Winetasting at Vindemia
Next up was Vindemia Vineyards & Winery. I selected this winery for the view! The beautiful property sits on 7 acres of Temecula hilltop and over looks a good portion of valley’s vineyards. It also matched well with my theme for the day, “family owned and operated”. Winemaker Dave Bradley, his son Dillion and his wife all manage the resort like operation together. I say resort because this winery could easily be an all day experience, they offer hot air ballon rides in addition to wine tasting. The outdoor patio is perfect for a picnic and all day relaxing with wine. They focus on Rhône style varietals. My first taste was a viognier. The profile floral, then fruity with a bit of a leafy finish. Because the grapes come from Santa Ynez they maintained good structure with just enough acidity to spark a twinkle in my mouth. I also liked the Sangiovese, Charlie who guided us through our wine experience told me that Temecula is on the same latitude as Tuscany. No wonder red varietals from Italy do so well! At Vindemia we also tasted typical varietals you see in California. Tasting with Charlie was great! He guided us through a vertical tasting of their More Cowbell. It’s their proprietary red blend of Zinfandel and Cab Franc. We started with the 2013- a party wine, crowd pleasing, big fruit and a hint of sweetness on the finish. Next we tasted the 2015- it is a bit more serious, focused fruit and hints of bell pepper on the finish. A great wine for food. Last the vertical line up Charlie surprised us with the 2016- a perfect intersection of 2013 and 2015. It was big, with prominent dark plum and blackberry flavors, the finish rustic and earthy.
Tasting fees $25, Bottle price $32-$180
Stop #3 Palumbo Family Wines
Last but certainly not least was Palumbo. Pronounced like the 70’s TV show Colombo. This place was truly special. The reason I visited was because when I was doing research I read that the wine maker Nicholas Palumbo was also a grape grower ...a farmer!Palumbo specializes in red wine. Of course they poured what I now consider Temecula’s defining red grape Sangiovese. All the wines were excellent! By this last stop however I stopped taking details notes and simply enjoyed the wine. Plus the son Reed who manages the vineyard and also helps his Dad make wine stopped in in the tasting room and allowed my to ask more than 20 questions about his family, the farm and their winemaking techniques. All I could do was sip and enjoy every moment. I purchased two of the five wines we tasting: the 50/50 the Cab and Syrah blend and the Meritag. The tasting at Palumbo was a beautiful ending to a full day in Temecula wine country.
Tasting fee $15 per person. Bottle prices $45 - $52 ($100+ for library wines)
South Africa Redefined: Wine Master Class
South African wine master class at Republique Resturant in Los Angeles with some of the most innovative, proud, creative winemakers direct from SA to LA! What an honor to spend a couple hours learning from
Eben Sadie @sadiefamilywines
Graham Weerts @capensiswines
Abrie Beeslaar @beeslaar_wines
Sebastian Beaumont @beaumontwines
Adi Badenhorst @aabadenhorst
The the wines poured were an amazing example of the talent and care that goes into SA wines.
My key take aways:
-The soil in The Western Cape where the majority of wine grapes are grown is very diverse.
-The acidity in South African wines is uniquely higher than average and consistent. It adds so much texture to the wines that whites can even be enjoyed at room temperature.
-SA is more advanced in technology and research than its counterparts (France and the U.S. for example)
Bottom line South Africa is producing world class wines based on sites, technology and passion!
#southafrica #wosa #wine @ Republique
Part Three - The people and the culture
As my South African narrative came to its end I spent the last few days tasting with a group called Blacc. Friendship, support, knowledge, goals, professional, community are just a few words that come to mind when I try to describe what Blacc is. It’s a support group of mostly black professionals who work in the wine and spirits industry. Every Monday the group charters a couple buses and travels to a wine farm or distillery to learn and taste. My first trip with Blacc I was completely nervous. I felt like I was entering a world of wine scholars. Would they like me? Are my tasting skills equal to theirs? When I showed up I was welcomed with smiling faces and hugs. It was inspiring to be included in a group of people who take so much pride in their profession and are eager to learn. I found my network and my friend circle all in one. The fact that wineries open their doors with amazing food and wine also helped!
I left South Africa two weeks later than planned. It was hard to end my adventure. The last weekend of my stay I had a dinner party at my apartment to thank my new South African friends for a great adventure. As I looked around the room at the attendees I realized I had met so many new friends with diverse backgrounds. I don’t mean to name drop, however it’s important to share a bit of each of their stories because often times people don’t realize there are people who are proudly African ,make a positive impact on the continent and are happy and prosperous in Africa. There was the poet-professor, Diana Ferrus. There was a model turn talent agent, the bar manager from one of the hottest hip hop clubs, two top Sommeliers, the restaurant manager from one of the top hotels in Cape Town, a classically trained pianist, and even a few American friends I met while in Cape Town.
I hired a local chef to cook a Traditional African meal; grilled meats, Chakalaka and Pap. We shared a half case of wine I bought with me from America. For some it was there first time having a California Cabernet. With only background music we sat in my apartment, ate and talked about everything from history, current events, the effects of Apartheid and even dating. At the end of the night Diana Ferrus recited her famous poem “Sara, I am Tara
I've come to take you home – home, remember the veld?” . It is about Sarah Baartman the first recorded story of a woman abducted to work as a sex slave.
My African adventure story finally ended, I returned to America with a few cases South Africa wine and new international friends I collected along my journey. I went back to my corporate America narrative forever changed and my soul full of positive vibes. I feel excited to have witnessed first hand how the story of South African wine and people transform the way people all over the world think about Africa .
Part Two – Winemakers and Sommeliers
When harvest ended in early April my immersion in African wine culture continued. Have you ever heard the term Sapiosexual, it’s a person who is attracted to smart people. I need a term for people like me who are attracted to wine people...Winosexual? I am attracted to anyone who loves talking about wine, especially winemakers and sommeliers.
After harvest ended I spent most of my days tracking down winemakers at boutique wine farms. With my newly acquired knowledge from working harvest I created a list of questions. I’d happily skip into tasting rooms and politely request to chat with the winemaker. My favorite question, what grape do you enjoy working with? After all the acquired knowledge that was the best question I could think of. It turned out to be a great ice breaker. The winemakers would spend hours chatting with me and sometimes share special bottles of unreleased vintages or their special blends not sold for retail. The winemakers would share stories of their start in the industry, their side passions and their harvest experiences abroad.
One of my favorite visits was to Grangehurst. I met the owner/ winemaker Jeremy Walker. When I mentioned to Jeremy my particular excitement was about women and people of color involved in the wine industry he kindly boasted about graduating Stellenbosch University with the first world renown woman winemaker Dr. Hildegarde Heymann. He also very proudly introduced me to his assistant winemaker Gladis, a beautiful black woman who was extremely shy however passionate about wine. I could feel the passion beaming from her smile.
Jeremy spent a good amount of time talking to me about wine. He poured his vintage wines and talked Pinotage. Jeremy appropriately described the unique and diverse grape in a way that made the grape sound like the world class representation of South Africa that it is. All of Grangehurst wines are vintage, which I absolutely love. It’s like someone gifting me the patience and will power to lay down wine for a while. My favorite was the Nikela. I pronounce it Nike –LA however the correct pronunciation “ne-gay-la”. Nikela means a gift or an offering.
When I was not in the tasting room I was still tracking local wine makers on my hit list. I tracked down Ntsiki Biyela who makes Aslina wines. When trying to arrange a sip and chat she offered me an invitation to a Braai at her home. (A braai is a South African BBQ.) Of course I jumped at the opportunity. I went to her home a couple days before she was to start her USA wine tour. Just one year before I had met Ntsiki at PYDA (Pinotage Youth Development Academy) and interviewed her for my social media page. I was impressed with her story, a student with absolutely no experience with wine who excelled when offered a scholarship to study wine. After graduating Stellenbosch University she landed a job as a winemaker for one of South Africa’s most historic wineries and now has her own brand, Aslina. As you can tell I am a proud ambassador and somewhat groupie. A highlight of my African story, chilling in Ntsiki’s backyard taking selfies, grilling meats and talking about everything that matters in life; food, wine and music. I could not believe I was actually living the story I had once only dreamed about.
I eventually moved from the suburbs in wine country to the city center of Cape Town. The focused transitioned from conversations in lush vineyards to dining experiences in some of Cape Town’s high end, hip and fancy restaurants. Instead of tasting with winemakers at vineyards I sought out to taste at world class restaurants that had the best sommeliers. I started this adventure at the Cape Grace hotel. I arrived for an impromptu visit with Tinashe Marlvin Gwese. For him it was random, for me he was just another somm on my hit list!
One of my dreams when I was an adolescent protesting against Apartheid was to eventually visit the fanciest hotel in South Africa, lounge by the pool and order the fanciest meal and drinks they had. The Cape Grace is definitely one of the fanciest, the pool idea was out of the question due to the water crisis so I waited in the Cape Grace bar stalker style drinking specialty cocktails and wine for two hours until Gwese finally arrived to work. I was excited to meet the Zimbabwe born wine guru. He is the head somm at Cape Grace, a hotel that 30 years ago I would not have been allowed to lounge around in during the segregation era of Apartheid. Gwese was charming and professional. He offered my friends and I a bottle of MCC sparkling wine, we chatted for a bit and took selfies. Mission accomplished! One down and I had a couple more on my hit list.
The next Sommelier on the hit list was Luvo Young Ntezo at the famous One and Only hotel. I learned my lesson and made an appointment with Ntezo. The well-traveled Ntezo graciously gave me the time I needed for a behind the scenes look at life as a top Sommelier in South Africa. I literally thought I was going to burst from excitement as he toured me around the glass, climate controlled cellar. Although the One and Only had a great collection of international wines, I could see that Ntezo was most proud of the amazing collection of South African wines. Ntezo was responsible for sourcing both international and domestic wines for the One and Only. Some of the wines I was familiar with and proud I had the same in my collection. After the tour Ntezo sat with me on the patio to talk wine, people and passions. Although he could not share the names he did hint that he had pulled corks for some of my favorite celebrities. Although eloquent in his language and wine knowledge the conversation with Ntezo was humble and insightful. He made the most exquisite of fine wine sound like everyday table wines. No matter the wine French, German, Afrikaans he pronounced all like they were his native language.
Last but certainly not least my good friend, winemaker and head sommelier at the Test Kitchen Tinashe Nyamudoku. Over the past couple years Tinashe and I have become friends. When I visited South Africa for the first time three years ago I did research, looking for people excelling in the wine industry in South Africa and that is when I found out about Tinashe. From that moment onward he became the first South African Sommelier on my list. I was fascinated with his journey. Like myself he did not grow up in this wine life, our parents did not have fine wine with dinner neither had we grown up traveling the world tasting fine wine. Tinashe paired his natural talents, study, and hard work with amazing character to become one of the world’s top sommeliers. He gained international fame and has become a decision maker at the world’s number fifty restaurant, number one in all of South Africa. Let’s take a break and let that soak in.
A few days before I was to leave Cape Town Tinashe stopped by my apartment in Cape Town to drop off a few bottles of his wine, Kumusha. The wine is beautiful, a 50/50 blend of Cinsault and Cabernet Sauvignon. It drinks like a crowd pleaser but leaves an impression like the life of the party. Exactly what Tinashe intended. When I asked him “my favorite question, what grape do you enjoy working with?”, he replied “It’s about creating texture”, he explained that taste and feel was what he was after when making Kumusha. That afternoon Tinashe and I drank his wine, shared some wine from the US and exchanged stories about our wine experience in Africa. We talked about his wine and what it means to him, to African and to the wine world. He explained that the name Kumusha means a place where you come from, a community or neighborhood. He told me that his motivation for creating his own wine label was to extend his community into the wine world “by telling an African story through wine”. We share this desire and two years ago when we first met it was a dream that now we are both living. Reminds me of the Biggie Smalls lyrics, “It was all a dream, we used to read Wine Enthusiast (sp) magazine.”
I spent three months in the Western Cape of South Africa working a harvest and immersing myself into an African wine story. The goal was to narrate my own wine adventure. The timing was perfect, I escaped from my corporate American narrative just in time for harvest season in the Southern Hemisphere. This was definitely one of life’s bigger decisions for me. My rationale, I could always return to my ordinary story however the opportunity and fearlessness to live my dream as an adventure story may not return. My dream was to learn, to absorb and also to give back in a wine life. To help manifest this dream I wrote down three soul feeding objectives: work a harvest, volunteer and study wine.
Out of all the countries in the Southern Hemisphere South Africa was my number one choice for this adventure of a lifetime. I had previously visited the popular wine region Stellenbosch and was familiar with South African Culture and the wine community. South Africa is a beautiful place where people unite through past experiences. It’s rich in culture and budding traditions, especially in the wine industry. To be transparent, I especially love it because it’s the only place in the world where diversity is prominent in all aspects of the wine world. Workers in the vineyard, the cellar, the tasting room and sommeliers at world class restaurants, people are exceling in all shades which offered a perfect framework for my African wine story.
Now let’s go, take a virtual trip with me and live a South African wine story.
Part 1 of 3 - Harvest & Volunteering
I landed in Cape Town in March full of excitement and ready for whatever wine adventures were soon to come. A couple days later I eagerly reported for work at DeToren Wine Farm. I worked three weeks at DeToren, each day the team was surprised to see me back. Harvest is no walk in the park. Although the days were long and tiring, working harvest was a magical experience. I loved every moment! From picking and sorting grapes, to using every muscle in my body to break through the hardened yeast caps during punch downs, the repetitive pump overs to mix wine and move fermenting juice from one tank to another, and even the spotless cleaning required after every process, the narrative to my carefully crafted wine adventure was unfolding into a soul feeding experience. Every day seem to be filled with good people and better wine. One of my most memorable experiences at DeToren was working the sorting table where we hand selected berry by berry grapes for Book XVII wine. There I stood with migrate workers from Zimbabwe when Tim Atkin walks up, I greeted him with a friendly California hello. After he recognizes my accent and duly noted “positive American vibes” I did my best to inspire one who I thought was a tourist visiting the wine farm. I tell him that working harvest is the best way to learn about wine. (I am thinking to myself quit your job and come join me in the cellar.) I feel proud of myself for trying to recruit another member to my wine tribe. After he walks away, the intern ask if I knew who I was talking to. “Hum, well, yes he said his name was Tim Atkin” She replied “the world famous, Master of Wine, Tim Atkin.... one mention of your name by Tim and you become famous in the wine industry”. Well alright then Tim! For the rest of the day I could not get Beyoncé’s song out of my head...”say my name... say my name”.
One time the assistant wine maker at DeToren asked if I could help stomp grapes for the exclusive Black Lion Label. My heart jumped with excitement. He lower me by fork lift into an over-sized stainless steel crate full of freshly picked Shiraz grapes. I marched in the crate with my bare toes pressing and gently breaking the grape skins. I could feel the soul of wine wiggle between my toes. My own real life, “I love Lucy “moment. I could hardly believe the moment I was living… bare feet in fresh grape juice in the southernmost part of the African continent, blissful. (Not to worry part of the process is to sterilize your feet before the big stomp.)
On my days off from DeToren I volunteered at a school called PYDA, Pinotage Youth Development Association. It is a program that trains Black South Africans to work in the wine industry. The students are between the ages of 18 and 24 in this program they earn a well-rounded education in the wine industry that includes everything from learning about vineyard techniques, to working in a tasting room and even wine tourism. Since my first visit to South Africa I have made it a point to visit with the students. I share wines from America and knowledge about wine and entrepreneurship. This visit I taught an American wine class showcasing wines from all over America, New York to California and everything in between. I usually take an entire case to share with the students, it’s usually their first and in some cases the only time they may have an opportunity to taste a high end California Cab.
Before my first day of class the program director told me the program had grown. Great I thought until I realized that also meant I would have 50 students in my class. Hosting a wine tasting for 50 adults does not scare me, however for 50 youths between the ages of 18-24 made me nervous as heck. The class and tasting went well. So well that by the end of it the students were excited about American wines. We finished the day posing for selfies and exchanged social media information.
I was happy that I was able to share American culture through wine education. I even used hip hop to explain that the Fingers Lake region is in New York, on the East Coast and Napa on the West Coast, in California. Think Biggie from the East and Tupac from West.... oh now they understood the geography of the United States. Part of my volunteer time with the students included arranging a day to work in the Vineyards harvesting grapes. I reached out to my wine farm contacts and secured a farm for us to harvest grapes for a day. Vivian the owner at Seven Sisters helped organize and offered her neighboring tasting room for a Braai. I collected donations from my friends in America to buy food and we had one of the best Bria’s of my life. Oh a Braai is a South African BarBQ. Two of the students cooked on the grill while another group taught me how to dance to South African hip hop. That day I learned how to do the gara~gara and pretty much confirmed I am challenged with rhythm.
Tuanni Price, the owner of Zuri Wine Tasting. A wine Enthusiast and adventurer, loves everything about the wine experience